Well, I should have seen that one coming. Still, this is way better than when people are mad at me and commenting because of it.
For your information, I will be at the BEA (Book Expo America) over at the Javitz Center tomorrow on a one-day pass. Feel free to go up to women who look under 30 and shout "ARE YOU THE REJECTER!?!?" at the top of your voice. I think that would be a funny way to get kicked out a convention.
What about contests? Are there good/bad writing contests too? Or are all of them bad? I won one where the judge was an extremely well-known publisher in my genre. Should I mention that?
The general rule with contests is that they're bad if you have to pay an entry fee. Those are scam contests. If you've won a non-scam contest, mention it. Also, mention what you just said about the judge (give the name). Dropping names is almost always good.
Hey what about working as an editorial assistant for a college literary journal that is published throughout your state.
Not going to help you. Sorry. We have to recognize the name of the journal. And yes, we're very familiar with journal names.
Quick follow-up regarding unpublished novels: down the road, with an agent, mightn't that be a selling point? I mean, suppose you wrote one, wrote a second, edited the first, wrote another, edited the second, and so on, and at some point polished the first again and sent queries out. Assuming you're a good writer and find an agent, should you mention this? It seems to me that most writers--even good writers--have one book in them, or variations on one book. Having a bunch with long-term work put into them would, I'd think, be a selling point. Or doesn't it matter?
We don't care about the work that didn't sell. We only care about the work you want us to sell. Yes, it is a good idea to write a lot of novels to work on your technique. No, it is not a good idea to mention them. We just hear "I wrote a bunch of unpublishable novels!"
As far as short stories go, should they be relevant to the topic you're querying? Also, articles in magazines relevant to your topic? thanks.
They don't have to be and probably won't be, but if they ARE, you should mention it. As in, "This short story that was published is actually the first chapter in a novel." (Like Ellison's Battle Royal)
I do have questions about some things that I guess would be considered "okayish credits," if you'll allow that term for a moment.
-- An essay / op-ed column published in the daily newspaper of a large U.S. city, though not NY or LA. Include?
-- Other articles / essays published in paying markets?
Not unless they relate to the manuscript in some fashion.
-- Published textbook material that's in use in classrooms?
Yes, but don't make a big deal out of it.
-- Working in the publishing industry? One of the blogging agents advised using this in the bio section, noting that it would convey to the agent that the writer would understand industry terminology, deadlines, the glacial slowness of publishing, etc. Granted, I didn't work in editorial; I did production and design.
Rejecter, could you please clarify Bad Credential #3, regarding having the same job as your protagonist? I was uncertain what you meant by a job that isn't hard to research. Also, why should an author not create a protagonist with a similar background?
I'm referring to the Mid-life Crisis Thriller, which usually involves a character who has the same job as the protagonist. It's a sign to us that you might not be that creative. If you have the same job, don't mention it. It's a turn-off.
Here's a question that should be near and dear to your heart: if a writer has experience working in publishing, should that be mentioned?
Is that "You sold 3000 self published copies ..." in a year? or ever?
Ever. Self-published novels sell really, really poorly.
What does an MFA give you? (Sorry, I don't even know what an MBA is good for - except 3 letters after your name).
An MFA is a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction, which is a bit like an MA except it's considered a terminal degree (you don't go on to a PhD after that). It serves to qualify people for teaching positions in English and creative writing at the college level, for which you generally need a master's.
How about professional writing in another field, such as technical writing. Does it work for me or against me (or make no difference) if I say something like:
Although this is my first novel, I've been a professional writer and editor for 18 years.
Mention it (it means you know grammar), but don't make a big deal out of it.
Your Bad Credential #1: lots of very competitive, "real" journals, don't pay. Anything. Or they pay you in a free subscription or a few contributor copies, or a token fee that--unless your story maybe is very short--will not amount to 3 cents per word. They also don't usually pay per word, but that's a whole other thing. Zoetrope or Paris Review, maybe they pay a lot. Agni, which I think is quite 'respected', pays $10 per printed page. Doesn't come out to 3 cents per word. One Story pays $100, regardless of length, and they tend to go for longer stories... and blah blah blah, I'm probably taking your comment too seriously or literally, aren't I? :oP
Taking it too literally. What I meant was, it should be a pro market, not your high school newsletter. Pro-markets generally pay, though this is not universally true.
Hmm. I've been on the fence about my one credential. I'm a staff writer for a website that does science/history articles. The negative side is that no, I'm not paid any appreciable amount. The plus side is that over this last year we've averaged more than 100,000 unique hits a day with some days topping 2.5 million.
To mention or not to mention...
Only mention if it directly pertains to the manuscript.
Not exactly a 'credential,' but would mention that I'm 17 years old be a good platform for someone writing YA fantasy?
I definitely think it creates strong marketing potential, the whole 'teen writing for teens' thing, but I'm interested if you think so too.
Oh, for the love of G-d, do not mention you are 17 years old. Feel free to submit, but don't mention you're under 20. Just keep that under wraps until we've fallen in love with your manuscript, at which point, we won't care.
I have to take issue with the comment about newspaper jobs. I worked at a mid-sized daily newspaper for seven years, so I know the crap you're talking about that can come out of those smaller papers. But you know what? These people are writing for a living. Most have a basic understanding of grammar, mechanics, spelling, etc. (I have firsthand knowledge that this isn't always the case, unfortunately). Working at a newspaper--no matter its size-- demands organization, time management, and respect for deadlines. I've always thought those would be good qualities an agent would like to see in an author.
An agent is looking for an author who has a manuscript that they love and can sell to a major publishing company. That is the ONLY real credential. Also, preferably, the author should not be a jerk.
Well, great. Being a former technical writer, having a BA in English and getting some "articles" in my published in my local newspaper ... was all I had to go on.
It doesn't matter. If you have a great manuscript, you don't need credentials. You'll be fine.
You mentioned writing for textbooks. I wrote a number of scripts for what then were VHS supplements for a series of reading textbooks from a top publisher. Is that worth mentioning?
Uh....not until it's the same subject as the manuscript.
I'm not an agent, but when I hear that an unpublished author has X novels in the trunk, it doesn't make me think, "That's dedication!" It makes me think, "...and not a one of them was good enough to sell?" It's like advertising your failures. Some agents, like Termagant 2's, might like to hear how many novels you have in the trunk, but I suspect others would be put off by it.
I just want to quote Issendai here because I totally agree with the above statement. Actually, most of the people in the previous post who've responded to other people's questions have given the same advice I would give.